Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Kat's Review: Tight Quarters

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on July26th for a chance to win an ecopy of your own!

Tight Quarters by Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press; Original edition (July 1, 2018)
Series: Out of Uniform, 6
Genre: Contemporary / Military Romance -- M/M

Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.

Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.

Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

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Content Warnings: Discussion of suicide, suicidal ideations, serious bodily injury, child death

Kat's Review:

We first saw Bacon in Annabeth Albert’s Wheels Up, book 4 of her Out of Uniform series. He is one of the enlisted SEALs on Wes and Dustin’s former team. We saw him again in book 5, Squared Away, and learned that he is pansexual (Albert does a great job of hinting at which characters will star in future books), and from there, I wanted to know so much more about Bacon. It turns out, he is absolutely delightful. It’s not that all the SEALs in the series are stereotypes, but their personalities, their struggles are not unexpected. They fit a general mold of who and what I would expect of someone in a spec ops military team.

Bacon absolutely breaks that mold. Sure, he is a stone-cold operator in the field. He’s a sniper, which has been the cause of problems in previous relationships - how can he be so cold and unfeeling about taking lives? his partners have wondered. This is ambivalence that I have struggled with, too. I am a huge bleeding-heart liberal socialist (shocker, I’m sure), and I loathe so many things the military-industrial complex does and stands for. On the other hand, the people in our military are real, individual people whose motivations and values are wide and varied, and cannot be painted with the same brush. And off the field, Bacon is just pure joy. Setting aside his surprising taste in clothes and music and his formative relationship experience, he embraces his burgeoning relationship with Spencer with a lot of enthusiasm. He likes everything, which sets up a lot of really, really hot sex scenes. (Spoiler alert: Bacon Really Likes Everything.)

Spencer is the series’s first protagonist who is completely outside the SEAL orbit. He’s not a near-age peer (he’s in his early 40s), and he doesn’t have a military background. Throughout his journalism career, he’s tackled topics related to the military, including care of injured vets. Spencer and Bacon share a similar past traumatic grief, which is one thing that ties them together. Someone who’s not used to committed relationships (most of his first marriage was bicoastal), Spencer has the bigger pile of shit to shovel, as it were, to be able to accept a future with Bacon.

They are a good couple, and they fit well together. Albert does a great job of building the sexual tension between them at the beginning, and her research and attention to detail regarding missions and trainings, and basically anything SEAL-related is really apparent. Having no experience with the armed forces, or their personnel, her descriptions feel realistic to me, though my only complaint might be that the “enemy” is always faceless. I understand the reasoning for doing that, both as an author and from Bacon’s narrative perspective. It’s certainly easier for the readers to be ok with the mission and outcomes when we’re not dwelling on the humanity of the “bad guys.”

***Mild spoilers!***

In retrospect, this is the most heavy of the Out of Uniform books, in terms of the SEALs’ objectives.  On Point, Maddox and Ben’s story, featured a long segment where they are injured and trapped in the jungle, surrounded by hostile forces, and that was heavy. But the mission that Spencer is embedded for, which goes sideways, and later, one of Bacon’s mission targets, ramps up a stifling atmosphere. And that contrast, between the darkness of what Bacon does and the lightness of who Bacon is, really is a pleasure to read. But it is super heavy.

The mission that goes awry also has some terrible consequences for a couple of Bacon’s teammates.  One SEAL sustains terrible bodily injury, which requires amputation, and he does not handle it well.  Bacon’s past experience with people experiencing suicidal thoughts helps him to get this SEAL the care he needs, but it’s a sobering reminder that people are frequently injured while serving, and some of those injuries are psychological.

***End of spoilers***

Now, I’m going to talk about one of the biggest reasons I love this book so much. Bacon is pansexual. He is pansexual. Let me tell you, as someone who is also pansexual, it’s hard for me to find the right words at seeing my sexual identity represented. Like being bisexual, being pan can be frustrating when other people read me as straight or as gay, depending on the partner I have. It’s not like I want to perpetually wear a shirt that says “Will fuck whoever, no really I mean it*,” and being in a long-term monogamous partnership renders certain things moot anyway. But it can get tiring when straights make assumptions, or when I don’t feel queer “enough” because my partner happens to be a cis dude.

*Except Nazis.  No fucking Nazis.

It is so nice, so wonderful, to see people in romance novels who reflect me. Annabeth Albert has constructed a universe (and I include the Gaymers series here, because there’s crossover between them) where there is realistic diversity. People are non-white, they’re queer, they’re disabled. While a lot of M/M can be pretty white cisnormative, with clearly defined top/bottom roles, Albert mixes things up and injects satisfying authenticity into her characters.  Oh, and did I mention how much I love Bacon?


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Source: Bought.

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Thanks for the review, Kat! I so love this series, too, and I'm glad you were able to find your rep here, and done so well.


Until Next Time,

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